Boots on Mars! Soon, But Soon Enough? #Mars #explore #science #NASA #tech

mars-human-exploration-art-dust-storm-astronauts-full(500x335)The next twenty years promise excitement for Mars lovers. Will Mars One get beyond selling tee-shirts and running science-fair-style experiments? Will the Mars Society continue their simulation missions in the Utah Desert and the Canadian Arctic? Will SpaceX send a rocket that can land like Buck Rogers on the Red Planet a mere three years from now? Etcetera, because these aren’t the only organizations with an eye on Mars.

Non-profits, private companies, and countries new to space may seem like long-shots, though they sure sound serious. Several governments are sending robotic craft to Mars, but NASA has a long history.

So what about NASA?

NASA and Lockheed Martin, together with several international partners and private industries, would like to conduct a comprehensive exploration to the hostile planet… Mars Base Camp [will be a] massive central space station made up of two Orions with two science laboratories.”

By 2028, an international crew will orbit Mars in an environment we have a lot of experience with – a space station – controlling remote rovers in real-time on the planet and its two moons. Scientists will be trained to become astronauts, rather than the other way around, so – as with most of the organizations I mentioned above – the military flavor will be gone.

NASA’s pioneers will return home to Earth and new crews will replace them. Eventually, once we’re convinced there’s no Martian life we could damage, people will set foot on the planet. If we still want to by then, I suppose. Our vision of life on Mars will be clearer by then and, even with advanced technology, it will be a hard life.

NASA won’t land soon enough for many private groups that want to colonize the planet now. There are crews in training today who expect to live and die on Mars.

How I wish I could see a hundred years into the future.

Can’t wait? All my books, including the On Mars series, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo,

Scifi colony on Mars - Kate Rauner

These are the old covers – click now to check out my new (and improved?) covers. Box Set of the complete series at Amazon and other fav stores, or buy individual books

and other major online retailers, including Smashwords for all digital formats and Create Space for paperbacks. On Mars books 1 and 2 are available now, with books 3 and 4 due out this fall. Read one today.

Check out:

http://www.mars-one.com/

http://www.marssociety.org/

http://www.nasa.gov/content/nasas-journey-to-mars

Thanks to scienceworldreport.com for the quote above.

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Mars-ward Ho #space #science #explore #Mars #tech @MarsOneProject #SpaceX

in the 1990s, Biosphere 2 studied a closed system similar to what Mars colonists may need to create

in the 1990s, Biosphere 2 studied a closed system similar to what Mars colonists may need to create

Orbiting the planet,
above Viking’s bones,
Odyssey’s a switchboard
that seeks new landing zones.
Global Mars Surveyor
measures gravity,
Magnetosphere, minerals,
and topography.
MAVEN and Mangalyaan
sniff at the Martian air,

Japan will gather samples
and bring them back from there.
Joining Opportunity
in studying the rocks,
Rover Curiosity
seeks life’s building blocks.

UAE will gather data
on the frigid dry climate.
China’s rover should be very good
at biotech.

Yup, that's me at Biosphere 2

Yup, that’s me at Biosphere 2

Sands of a planet solely occupied
by robots,
Soon will carry boot-prints from
eager astronauts.
Far beyond horizons
where ancestors have roamed,
Mars One and SpaceX
want to claim Mars as a home.

By Kate Rauner

The list of missions to Mars – failed and successful – is long, but the list of planned missions is growing longer. Thanks to space.com for the update. You can visit Biosphere 2 in Arizona where environmental studies are ongoing.

Visit Mars yourself, in my science fiction series On Mars.

On Mars 3 covers over planet (298x300)

 

Physics & Biology Helped Us Evolve #science #cancer #NASA #Earth #Mars @MarsOneProject

Sixteen cells working together as a species of algae

Sixteen cells working together as a species of algae

For three billion years, life on Earth consisted of single celled organisms. That was so soon after the planet cooled, it leads some scientists to believe life may be common in the universe. Then 800 million years ago, multicellular life burst on the scene and rapidly evolved. Since it took so long to make the multicellular leap, some scientists believe this sort of advanced life may be rare.

Individual cells started grouping up. They collaborated, differentiated, grew in size and ability. Some sacrificed themselves for the good of the many. Compared to the long, dull years of single-celled living, the resulting diversification barely took any time at all. Before long the world was full of trilobites and anenomes, then fish, ferns, pterodactyls, tyrannosaurs, bees, whales, cacti, kangaroos, not to mention us.

Biology: why did life change? How?

A single gene, called RB, studied in a sixteen-cell species of green algae may explain cells banding together into more complex creatures – and may also explain why some cancers grow in us today. Thanks to mutations in the gene, RB can cause cells to clump together into altruistic colonies, or cells in us to selfishly run wild.

Ironically, cancer may be the price we pay for existing at all.

But complex life needed more than variations of RB to evolve.

Physics: life needed Earth to change
RB may have launched complex creatures more than once before our ancestors lasted long enough to evolve.

Scientists think that until 500 million years ago, life on Earth fell victim to high-energy blasts from the sun, [the early sun produced a lot more cell-killing gamma, ultraviolet and x-rays than it does today.] The atmosphere then was too thin to fully protect our single-celled ancestors, whose DNA would have been damaged by such powerful rays. That kept them from becoming more complex.

As the early Earth cooled, heavy metals sunk to the center. Still very hot but now under extreme pressure, the inner core solidified and spun inside the still-molten outer core.

Bingo! A strong magnetic field was generated, deflecting radiation and protecting the atmosphere from being stripped away. Combined with an aging, more-sedate sun, cells were no longer regularly smashed back to their simplest forms.

The details are hard to pin down and studies will continue. “The origin of life remains one of most challenging themes in science.” And, I might add, one of the most fascinating.

Poor dead Mars
The failure to form a proper dynamo of solid inner core and molten outer core may help explain why Mars lost its early atmosphere and has essentially no magnetic field. Perhaps the planet was just too small to manage the trick – Mars is only half the diameter of Earth. The combination makes Mars a hostile planet for life. Whether life ever started there is unknown, and the chance life persists if it did once gain a toehold is unlikely, but NASA and others are working to find out.

Colonize Mars with scifi
The combination also makes Mars a difficult place for us to consider GLORY Ebook 300 dpi (200x300)colonizing, but from NASA to Mars One, people are ready to go. For now, you can only travel to Mars in your imagination – or in mine! Check out my scifi On Mars series at Amazon or your favorite on-line retailer. Tragedy and despair follow the first colonists to Mars, but exploration, optimism, and love await them too. With a clue to survival from a cat! Read today. Or, as we say on Mars, tosol.

Thanks to Washington Post here and here for stories and quotations.

Latest Group of Martians Finish Their Mission #Mars #space #explore

Mars Society domeCould you live for eight months in a dome – about the size of two two-car garages stacked one on top of the other – sealed in with five coworkers? You’d be monitored via surveillance cameras and body-movement trackers. You’d have email and internet, but with a twenty minute lag (makes my rural-America internet look great!) You’d have some work to do outside your dome, but you’d have to wear a space suit.

Sound like a new reality show?

It’s a NASA Mars Analog – the third mission ended recently. They’re learning what makes life more bearable – I noticed a few recipe contests – and what personality traits go into the best teams.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa leads this study, with support from team members at Cornell University, Michigan State University, Arizona State University, University of South Florida, the University of Maryland, the Institutes for Behavior Resources, Smart Information Flow Technologies, Blue Planet Foundation, and from the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES). http://hi-seas.org/

NASA’s not the only outfit worried about the technical and psychological problems that may assault the first humans on the Red Planet. The Mars Society has run over a dozen short Mars simulations.

Not all the obstacles can be tested on Earth: not the effects of low gravity, invasive dust, and the fact that no one can help you – at least, not for a long time. But we can study the social, interpersonal, and cognitive factors that affect teams. Biosphere Two tried a two-year experiment and that team had numerous interpersonal conflicts.

Of course, eight months may not be long enough to simulate what it will be like to be a Martian. Some volunteers are ready to spend the rest of their lives on Mars. It will be difficult and dangerous. Would you go?

Do Spare Parts Doom a #Colony on #Mars? :( Or can we print our way to success? #MarsSurvivalTips

NASA concept of a Mars colony

NASA concept of a Mars colony

In my #scifi books, Glory on Mars and Born on Mars, settlers have fancy 3D printers called fabricators, using lasers to sinter together almost anything. Giant robotic fabricators build their habitats while precision lab fabricators use metal foils to slowly construct any part they need. Lasers can even manipulate molecules or atoms, so they can make any crystal they want. But that’s science fiction.

One of MIT’s objections to the Mars-One plan for a permanent colony on the red planet is spare parts. As time goes on, spare parts for a growing colony would exceed the room in any plausible sized spacecraft.

Will 3D printing save the day?

NASA is working on this in the International Space Station – a way to make many different spare parts, as needed, from one source of material.

But we Earth-bound humans use a lot of different materials. My town’s recycling instructions list seven types of plastic, aluminum, steel, and glass. And what’s in the light bulbs and electronics I have to handle separately?

High-end industrial printers sinter parts from certain metal and plastic powders, but there are a lot of materials that can’t be printed. And 3D printers can’t easily mix materials in one print job. Printing a hammer is easy, but parts that will move must be printed separately and assembled. Also, the parts aren’t as strong because of weakness between the layers.

On the plus side, while 3D printing looks expensive compared to traditional manufacturing, it looks pretty good compared to sending spacecraft to Mars.

If you’re a colonist on Mars you’ll live in a bubble of earthly environment, and if that bubble pops you’re dead in five minutes. Spare parts will be life-and-death items. The technology I sent to Mars in my books is still in the real-world’s future.

See more about Mars-One and the debate with MIT students.

Is a One-Way Trip to #Mars Crazy? :( Is it #SciFi? :)

Mars_habitat NASA

NASA concept Photo ID: S93-45586

Mars-One is a Dutch not-for-profit planning to establish a permanent colony on Mars. They’ve selected candidates to train for the one-way trip in five or ten years. Is that insane?

  • Problems to overcome
    They say their settlers will land a ship using retro rockets in a configuration never tried before, and no one’s ever landed such big payloads.
  • Science won’t be their focus, colonization will – but how do you learn to live off the Martian land without a lot of specialized science?
  • Going to Mars, even one-way, will cost a lot – really, really a lot. Mars-One will raise the billions needed using the Olympics as a model – ad revenue, broadcast rights, and donations.
  • MIT students studied colony plans and found even simple things like CO2 versus O2 balance for the plants and humans don’t compute. That Mars-One hasn’t planned enough time or money to develop their missions. And they doubt a colony could become self-sustaining anytime soon.

In my scifi book, Glory on Mars, the first colony is further in the future than GLORY Ebook 300 dpiMars-One, and I give my settlers some neat technologies – robots to build the settlement, an Artificial Intelligence, and satellite systems complete with an orbiting energy station to beam power to the surface. That’s still not enough to prevent disasters.

View the physicsfocus article and Mars-One web site. More about the MIT study here including a video of their debate with Mars-One founders. More about my books here.

Movie #TheMartian opens today based on a #FridayRead novel by author with his own Cinderella story

the MartianThe Martian tells the story of NASA astronaut Mark Watney, mistakenly left behind for dead when his crewmates evacuate the planet during a mission-aborting storm. We begin with Watney’s point of view: “I’m pretty much fucked.” While Weir also gives us chapters from the viewpoint of NASA on Earth and the crew who left him behind, I suspect Watney is Weir’s favorite character.

Story of the story
The story of how the book went from pen (or keyboard) to movie screen is Andy Weir’s real-life fairy tale.

  • He began writing the book in 2009, researching thoroughly so it would be as realistic as possible. Weir decided to blog the book online one chapter at a time for free. In 2011 fans of the website convinced him to self-publish the book on Amazon – originally as a Kindle book at the lowest price Amazon allowed: 99¢.
  • It soared to the top of Amazon’s list of best-selling science-fiction titles.
  • Podium Publishing signed for the audiobook rights in 2013.
  • Crown Publishing purchased the print rights and re-released it in 2014.
  • The book debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list on March 2, 2014.
  • Now it’s a major motion picture.

Rejections
I can imagine why traditional literary agents rejected Weir’s books if they’re all like this (The Martian wasn’t his first try.) Weir’s mission to Mars feels deeply “NASA” with chipper, brilliant, and brave astronauts. As the book promos say, The Martian is a tale of survival of the geekiest. You could have an Excel spreadsheet open as you read, to check Weir’s math. All this sounds too tech-heavy for any traditional publisher to try.

The Martian defies “tradition”
The possibly-doomed astronaut tells most of his story through log entries – “telling” rather than “showing” (a bugaboo in writing advice.) For every clever survival ploy and disastrous setback, you know he survived because he’s logging the sol’s adventures after the fact. There’s all the detail from Weir’s research – technical “backstory” the astronaut shares in his log – more anti-writing advice. There’s no villain, though Mars is quite an antagonist. Most importantly, there’s a lack of soap opera – Weir offers no dark secrets or betrayed loves – very little about the astronaut, his friends, or family at all.

Fun read
I’m an engineer and appreciate the sense of reality Weir creates in his story, and the brave plucky astronaut, but even I started skimming the math late in the book. That was because I wanted to find out what happened next – not because I wanted the book to end. Read the free preview and if your reaction is “I want three hundred pages of this,” read the book. You’ll be happy.

Real Settlers Can Learn From The Martian
Mars-One, real-life non-profit dedicated to placing a colony on Mars, takes lessons from the book:

“If you want to be the first, you have to like being alone. Stated in a more practical way, when you’re a settler in the first settlement on Mars, you have no neighbors when you need to borrow some folding chairs for your next party.”

But Mars-One wants to plant a permanent colony while The Martian mission does not. As they say, “The novel described some useful future-tech inventions, like nano-woven habitat cloth, nuclear spaceships, and durable life support equipment. But… where are all the robots? And 3D printers? And other tech for basic infrastructure?”

What others say
Amazon Kindle edition is up to $5.99 now, with over 13,000 reviews averaging 4.5 stars. Phenomenal. For a little balance, I looked at the few 3-star ratings. These readers disliked exactly what everyone else loved: “This is a nerd’s book. It is driven almost entirely by the mastery of technical details.” [M. Milligan] The optimistic, wisecracking castaway sounded juvenile to some. It did remind me of the type of dialog from science fiction’s pulpier era, with the modern acceptance of an occasional “fuck.” Can you imagine Neil Armstrong texting to JPL “Look! A pair of boobs! -> (.Y.)? I’m curious to hear how the movie presents Watney’s monologs and dialogs.

The story behind The Martian is at Wikipedia. SPOILER ALERT – Wikipedia includes a plot summary.